Two years post-merger, Flagship’s Senda refines pipeline and replenishes the bank
Senda Biosciences will look a little different than it did two years ago when Flagship Pioneering unwrapped the bow on the venture, a merger of Senda and Kintai Therapeutics.
Originally home to six preclinical programs with ambitions for treating multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, colorectal cancer, chronic kidney disease, obesity and other diseases, the startup is fine-tuning its path and will soon present a clearer scope of its future.
For now, en route to its clinical entry — a milestone that had been anticipated for this year, as of last June’s Series B — the fledgling biotech is picking up another round of capital, again from Flagship and a slate of new investors.
With a $123 million Series C, the Cambridge, MA, biotech hopes to have a refined vision in the coming months as it turns off the lights on some of those programs out of Kintai and its original blueprint.
“The next couple of months, we’re going to be starting to look at turning the focus of the company toward strategy goal area and specific programs for IND declaration and first-in-human,” CEO Guillaume Pfefer told Endpoints News.
The biotech has been “deprioritizing” multiple programs, including CKD, as it’s gotten deeper into mRNA and ramped up efforts in immuno-oncology, infectious disease and metabolic disease, Pfefer said.
The company’s vision is based on “intercellular communication across species,” as Senda has worked to glean insights from bacteria, fungi, plants and other sources to see how non-human species have co-evolved with humans — including the bacteria within us. That involves looking at how they’ve evolved to communicate with human cells.
“We are looking at cell and gene therapy and broadly speaking, comprehensive programming of medicine,” Pfefer said.
In its funding announcement, Senda said its platform can also “create new frontiers for therapeutics and vaccines” and maybe gene-editing and protein-based therapies down the road. Prior to joining the Flagship boat, Pfefer was a 25-year GSK veteran who led shingles vaccine development.
The goal is to reach cells, tissues and organs that previous medicines have failed to reach. Senda wants its nanoparticles to target specific cells and tissues in a “safe, repeatable way,” the CEO said. Pfefer is also a Flagship partner.
After tapping investors, Senda is now prepared to move toward the clinic, and will look at hiring a chief medical officer, Pfefer said. The biotech currently employs about 75 people, he said.
The “intersystems biology” that serves as the foundation of Senda is the result of a decade of research out of Flagship, which included tapping into the microbiome expertise and computational biology at the incubator. On the microbiome side, Flagship has run into varying hurdles, including shuttering Kaleido Biosciences earlier this year, but barreling ahead with Seres Therapeutics, which is headed to the FDA with its C. difficile drug.
Flagship, the biotech-creating behemoth that has launched more than 80 startups in its 22-year history, also recently contributed to another round of financing for its spinout Evelo, and has added a series of new CEO-partners, including former AbbVie leader Mike Severino.
“In this market, it is a little bit tight, but in my experience, great science and great data attract great investors and that remained true certainly for us,” Pfefer said.
The Series C included Flagship and new Senda backers Samsung Life Science Fund, Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), Bluwave Capital and Stage 1 Ventures. Existing investors also joined, including Alexandria Venture Investments, Longevity Vision Fund, Mayo Clinic, Partners Investment and State of Michigan Retirement System.